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Immunity. 2001 Feb;14(2):135-43.

Increased TCR avidity after T cell activation: a mechanism for sensing low-density antigen.

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Department of Pathology and Medicine, Division of Immunopathology, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


While activated T cells are known to have enhanced biological responses to antigen stimulation, the biophysical basis of this increased sensitivity remains unknown. Here, we show that, on activated T cells, the TCR avidity for peptide-MHC complexes is 20- to 50-fold higher than the TCR avidity of naive T cells. This increased avidity for peptide-MHC depends on TCR reorganization and is sensitive to the cholesterol content of the T cell membrane. Analysis of the binding data indicates the enhanced avidity is due to increases in cross-linking of TCR on activated T cells. Activation-induced membrane (AIM) changes in TCR avidity represent a previously unrecognized means of increasing the sensitivity of activated T cells to small amounts of antigen in the periphery.

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